Japanese company Manda Fermentation began a relationship with Fresno State back in 2019 that has resulted in a new U.S. division based in the Fresno area. Their products are used at area almond orchards as well as a community garden in Reedley. Photo via Manda Fermentation USA
Written by Frank Lopez
As spring brings the bloom, so goes a company that began planting roots in the Central Valley in the last couple of years.
Manda Fermentation USA Inc., the U.S. brand of Manda Fermentation Co., Ltd., a Japanese health food manufacturer founded in 1987, has increased its footprint in the San Joaquin Valley since it first made connections with Fresno State back in 2019.
Through a series of business introductions, the heads at Manda were made aware of the Valley’s agricultural richness and potential.
While things started with research and development — trials to see how Manda’s products could help with crops and harvesting — the company has since expanded to growing a variety of crops up and down the Central Valley to go to markets across the nation and the world. It is involved with community test gardens, is getting its products into more local stores and joined the Fresno County Farm Bureau.
Clay Gilpin, market development manager for Manda USA, said the Covid-19 pandemic did delay some outreach activities the company had planned, but there was a positive trend springing up during lockdowns.
According to an analysis of the U.S. Census Monthly Retail Trade Report from Breck’s, a Dutch online flower and garden shop, the gardening industry saw a spike in revenue despite the pandemic, with sales for building materials and garden retail sector increasing by 8.6% between spring 2019 and spring 2020.
“We took advantage of gardening becoming a really popular hobby because people were staying home — that combines with the trend of people wanting to grow their own food and know where the food comes,” said Gilpin.
Manda USA is seeing new demographics as they target different customers. Manda has its fertilizer product, Manda Harvest, in local stores including Alert-O-Lite’s new gardening section, a True Value and Central Fish Market.
Central Fish may start carrying Manda’s fermented health supplements in the future.
Currently, Manda USA is selling its larger fertilizer products directly to farmers to use locally for almonds, blueberries and citrus. It will also be used on olives in the near future.
In areas right outside of the Central Valley, Manda is working with crops including rice, walnuts, canola, corn and cannabis, among others. Cannabis responded very well to Manda’s fertilizer products, producing larger buds on the plant, and Gilpin said that the company hopes to get involved when cannabis cultivation proliferates in our area.
Manda has also been testing its products at Community Life Garden, an organic community garden in Reedley.
Manda has multiple test plots use to demonstrate the effects of Manda Harvest on crops including potatoes, onions, zucchini and radish. The fertilizer is free for farmers who wish to use it on their crops and most of the food grown in the garden is donated to a faith-based food bank.
Gilpin said that the company is trying to continue its outreach to the ag community and beyond, which is why joining the Fresno County Farm Bureau has served as a valuable resource.
“Their publications are very helpful to give us insight into what’s going on in the market, especially here in Fresno County,” Gilpin said. “It’s an outlet to do press releases and speak to the community. Eventually we want to advertise in those publications because they are reaching our target market — farmers who grow organically.”
Plans to establish a facility in the Central Valley, possibly for an administrative office to start with, were delayed because of Covid-19, but Gilpin said the company is still open to a number of possible partnerships and sites elsewhere.
There are visions of creating a sort of hub in a farmer’s market with other businesses to join Manda’s local efforts. As regenerative and organic ag becomes more important, Gilpin said Manda USA is trying to provide the resources to grow better food and make more money while they’re doing it.
“I can envision that happening in Fresno as well if we find the right partners and the right site,” Gilpin said. “Because of our mission and the nature of our business, we would probably seek to revitalize an older building and build in an area like Downtown Fresno or the Tower District to enact these ideas.”